Experiential Therapy

At Discovery Ranch South, therapy is not limited to office hours. Therapy is integrated into every aspect of your student's stay. Your student will receive the best possible care, including the most clinically validated forms of treatment.

Dedicated therapists and highly trained staff members will guide your student through various forms of experiential therapy. With many forms of treatment available, your student will have the opportunity to experience forms of treatment that work best for her.

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    The Purpose of Experiential Therapy

    Experiential therapy puts therapy into action. For experiential therapy, students engage in activities designed with specific clinical outcomes in mind. It is more than just filling time. It's creating clinical opportunities out of common–and not-so-common

    Many Discovery Ranch experiential activities have a recreational component to them. Other activities are built around what appears to be ordinary living and working tasks. Each activity provides your student with an opportunity to learn or practice a therapeutic technique vital to future success.

    Because these activities occur outside of the office in "real life" situations, teens tend to find these experiences more authentic and meaningful therapeutic sessions in an office setting.

    Equine Therapy

    Many troubled teens are resistant to treatment. Equine therapy helps to break down barriers and open teen's hearts and minds to healing.

    Horses are social animals. Like people, horses respond well to compassionate, assertive behavior. But horses react to fear or aggression by becoming skittish. The way horses respond to your daughter is a valuable teaching tool.

    Because horses respond to people's emotional states, working with horses allows students to learn to recognize their own emotions. Therapists can also learn from the way that your daughter interacts with the horses.

    In Equine Therapy, the girls have a task to complete. They also have to follow specific rules. The task itself is less important than the teamwork and problem-solving skills involved. The girls themselves decide the consequences for breaking the rules.

    After they complete the task, the girls discuss their thoughts and feelings. They talk about what they learned from the experience.

    Working with horses can also help girls to develop empathy. For example, if a horse becomes difficult to work with, this will lead to a discussion. Trying to guide a challenging horse can be like trying to guide a challenging teen. So, these discussions can lead to empathy towards parents and other adults.

    Also, because horses are large, and some girls find them intimidating. Therapists work with girls to overcome their apprehensiveness. Girls develop emotional coping skills. The skills they develop not only help with Equine Therapy but other challenges. Girls learn to deal with life situations no matter how large or intimidating.

    Equine therapy helps bring issues to the surface faster than traditional therapy alone. The opportunities they have to practice emotional regulation lead to faster improvement.

    Moreover, girls remember experiences more profoundly than simple conversations. Therefore, the experience they have in Equine Therapy leaves a lasting impression. The memorable nature of the experiences contributes to students' future successes.


    Calf Rescue

    The calves offered for adoption have been orphaned. Dairy farmers take calves from their mothers to allow the mother cow to produce milk for the dairy industry. Calves require the loving support of students in order to stay alive.

    The infant calves bond to care-giver. Most often, the students also develop a strong bond with their calves. Caring for vulnerable calves helps students to think outside of themselves.

    However, unlike some pets, such as dogs, calves do not form a lifelong bond. Calves move from complete dependence to independence in a short time. When calves are four months old, then they are old enough to move on to local ranches.

    If your daughter's calf reaches this age, then she will experience loss as the cow transitions to a new home. This loss will take place in a safe environment, with the support of a counselor.

    Learning to let go of a calf that she loves parallels the experience of parents. Her therapist and support staff will help her to process the experience of letting go. This experience will help your daughter to develop empathy for her parents and other people who have cared for her.

    Most teens care for more than one calf while they are at the ranch. The first calf will be raised until it is four months old, then the calf will transition to another local ranch. Then teens begin the process again with a new calf.


    Performing Arts Therapy

    Your student will have the opportunity to tell her own story actively and expressively. The process of creating art—whether through visual art, music, or stage performances—will also give your teen the chance to discover her own feelings about her experiences in a safe and validating environment.

    In the performing arts program, teens have the opportunity to showcase their talents. Those talents may or may not put them on center stage. Students learn a variety of skills. For example, they may learn about stage and sound production. They can learn about theater costumes and makeup. Students also have opportunities to perform.

    Four times a year, our students put on a variety show for their parents and staff during the parent seminar. Our girls also enjoy competing with some of our sister schools in our version of "Battle of the Bands." For those primarily interested in arts, we offer a performing arts track.

    This supplemental program adds an extra 6-10 hours a week of advanced art classes. Students learn to compose music, write original theatrical productions, and choreograph dance routines. The art program helps students express their thoughts and emotions in their own way.

    When your daughter comes to Discovery Ranch South, she will discover interests and talents that she did not know she had. These newfound interests can replace old, unhealthy behaviors. Your daughter will be better able to adapt to relationships after exploring them through art.


    Adventure Recreation Programming

    The recreation program offered at Discovery Ranch is centered around the use of adventure. We see adventure recreation (climbing, canyoneering, hiking and skiing...etc) as a means to further augment the therapeutic process as well as providing exciting opportunities for connection. We accomplish this through various experiential activities both on and off campus through our two recreation phases, Foundations and Advanced recreation. We firmly believe and have been witness to the significant impact that adventure has on our clients confidence, ability to manage stress, problem solving and overall life satisfaction.


    Foundations of Recreation programming:

    Our foundations program serves as an introduction to our recreation programming and is one of our core groups that students are first enrolled in when they arrive. Foundations of Recreation has two components to it, weekday team building group (1 hr long) and our monthly off-campus caseload trips. Our weekday team building group is intended to apply team building, communication, and problem solving activities to the therapeutic process. We do this by utilizing the activities (and each person's role in the activity) to work on the individual goals each student sets with their therapist. As such this group becomes another tool for the clinician to further challenge and support their clients in working on those goals. The Friday off campus caseload trips are 4-6 hours of participation in various outdoor adventure activities such as rock climbing and hiking! Here in Southern Utah we have an abundance of natural resources, including national parks, to get out and challenge our students in a fun and unique way! Students will typically be in the Foundations weekday group for about 4-6 weeks max but will maintain involvement in our off campus caseload trips!

    Advanced Recreation programming:

    Our Advanced Recreation program is a very exciting and abrupt shift in how and why we utilize adventure recreation in our programming here at Discovery Ranch. When a student earns their Accountability phase they are given the opportunity to choose our Advanced Recreation program. When this happens they have 3.5 hours of groups specific to adventure recreation during the week and then a full 8 hour day every Saturday. This significant increase in time commitment allows us to shift from experiencing the various adventure recreation activities to learning all the technical details of each discipline and, if they chose to, begin the pursuing mastery of that activity. A good example of this is rock climbing. In Foundations they are going out and climbing on anchors that the Recreation Department staff have set up and all they are expected to do is challenge themselves, be safe and have fun! In our Advanced Recreation group we utilize the additional 3.5 hours of group time to learn the intricate detail of rock climbing and eventually will be building climbing anchors, learning various knots, and developing skills in trip planning. Another way to think about it is Foundations is designed to develop curiosity and interest and our Advanced Recreation group is intended to develop the skills and passion for adventure activities that can continue to impact their lives long after their time at Discovery Ranch.

    Peer Leadership Program

    Learning how to manage responsibilities is a teen element in most teens' recovery processes. The Peer Leadership Program will allow your daughter to demonstrate her personal growth through leadership that is a natural part of being a working ranch.

    While staff members are available to provide guidance when necessary, students themselves are responsible for making sure much of the day-to-day work on the ranch is accomplished. Student supervisors, or peer leaders, have many responsibilities of other supervisory jobs.

    To achieve a peer leader position, your teen must complete a process similar to obtaining a job in real life. This process includes completing an application, demonstrating competency, earning references, and completing an interview.

    There are many positions available, including supervising bottle preparation for calves, laundry, or delegation of other household chores.

    As a peer leader, your teen will learn about managing work responsibilities fairly and equitably. She will also have the chance to experience less than pleasant outcomes if projects are not managed responsibly.

    The peer leadership program provides teens like your daughter with excellent opportunities to prepare for their future careers.

    Forget About Me (FAM) Projects

    Forget About Me Projects will give your student the experience of putting someone else's needs before their own. These projects are a chance for your teen to be of service to her community in large and small ways.

    Past projects have included picking up trash at a nearby recreation site, visiting elderly care centers, and helping a new wildlife reserve prepare to open by painting part of the facility.

    Students typically complete a minimum of two service projects during their stay. The first project is on-campus. The second project is off-campus. However, students may help with other student's projects.

    Multiple service projects are happening every week, so your student will have many opportunities to contribute.


    At Discovery Ranch South, students take safe risks they might have never experienced. When they are climbing a rock wall, or in a corral with horses, there is no place to hide. Helping teens face their fears helps them discover their strengths.

    Experiential therapy is rooted in trust. These therapeutic experiences become life-long memories. Clinicians draw on those emotionally charged experiences for in-the-moment therapy, as well as future counseling sessions.

    As students and clinicians share these experiences, they build positive relationships. This network of therapeutic relationships includes more than just the girl's clinician. Horse professionals, teachers, residential and recreational staff extend the impact of therapy through action.

    Another benefit to moving students out of their comfort zones and into untried activities is that they discover new interests to compete with their old behavior patterns. As their confidence and skill level grow, so does their determination to overcome their challenges.


    I think she’s now learned what truly makes her happy and unhappy, and how her own behavior impacts her own long-term happiness. That is a huge change, and it’s had a very favorable impact on how we interact with each other.